Photo/Illutration Defense experts express their views about Japan’s defense policy at a January meeting. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The government took the unusual step of publicizing a summary of expert opinion that shows overwhelming support for Japan to possess first strike capability against enemy bases despite growing public misgivings over moves to significantly raise defense spending without any debate to date.

The finding came on the heels of a government effort since January to sound out defense experts ahead of the compilation by the year-end of a revised National Security Strategy.

Over the course of 17 meetings, the views of 52 experts were heard. Among those who spoke were Satoshi Morimoto, a former defense minister, Shotaro Yachi, the former head of the National Security Secretariat, and Ryoichi Oriki, a former chief of staff of the Self-Defense Forces’ Joint Staff.

The government released a summary of the views on Sept. 1.

In a purported effort to ensure a frank expression of opinions, no names were attached to the quotes included in the 47-page document. It only included the dates and themes of the meetings as well as the names of all those who attended each session.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is seeking to raise defense spending to 2 percent or more of gross domestic product within five years to meet goals for member nations set by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

With regard to Japan possessing the capability to strike an enemy base preparing to attack Japan, seven experts were in favor, while only one individual expressed outright opposition. Others called for a more cautious approach on grounds such a strategic shift would essentially mark a break from Japan’s long-held stance of an exclusively defensive posture.

Among those in favor of striking enemy bases, one individual argued that missile defense alone would be insufficient and that the only way to guarantee Japan’s security was to possess such a capability.

The lone dissenter stated that first strike capability could only be successful if the enemy sustained a level of damage well beyond anything it had anticipated.

The anonymity of the views laid out in the document may have contributed to a major reconsideration of whether Japan--which is protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella--should maintain an exclusively defense posture.

One unnamed expert said the limitations of a purely defensive posture were already recognized.

A sharp increase in defense spending was the overall consensus. The Kishida administration has pledged to double defense spending within five years.

The experts also weighed in on calls to review a ban on the export of defense equipment as well as discussion on the three longstanding principles regarding nuclear weapons under which Japan has pledged to not possess, produce or allow such armaments into the country.